Hoskins Sotutu powered the Blues through to the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final as they beat the Western Force 31-21 on Saturday, denying the Crusaders a shot at silverware.

Two tries from Sotutu and one each for Dalton Papalii and Mark Telea helped the Blues carve out a 28-0 interval lead, with Telea denied another try in the second half after the TMO identified an infringement by team-mate Ray Niuia, who was yellow-carded.

By that stage, a Western Force fightback was under way, tries from Feleti Kaitu'u and Tevita Kuridrani having narrowed the deficit, and Rob Kearney went over in the closing stages to cut the deficit to 10 points.

However, the Blues, helped by 11 points from the boot of Otere Black, were not to be caught and they will face the Highlanders at Eden Park in the final next Saturday.

Sotutu had darted in down the left for the opening try, and Telea struck just before the half-hour mark after the Blues withstood a period of Force pressure, with Papalii going over for the third.

Sotutu barged through again just before the break, as the Blues piled on the points.

Kaitu'u made the first dent in the Blues' big lead in the 49th minute, going over from close range, and Kuridrani brought the contest to life when he scythed in for a second Force try just seven minutes later. A penalty from Black eased the Blues' nerves, meaning Kearney's late effort was just a consolation.

That result meant the Crusaders missed out on the final, with the Super Rugby champions each year from 2017 to 2019 seeing trophy hopes scuppered despite beating the Rebels 52-26 in Melbourne earlier in the day.

Wing Sevu Reece pounced for a hat-trick in the eight-try Crusaders show, with Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Oliver Jager and Braydon Ennor also going over for the men from Christchurch, who finished third in the series.

The top three sides finished level on 23 points from five games, with points difference settling the final places as the Blues took top spot with +119, the Highlanders second on +103, and the Crusaders (+97) agonisingly third.

The Blues beat the Reds 31-24 in Brisbane on Friday to stay top of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman table.

Leon MacDonald's side have now won four out of four in the competition, though they were denied a precious bonus point at Suncorp Stadium against the injury-plagued Reds.

Harry Wilson found a gap to score the opening try of the match for the home team, but Brandon Paenga-Amosa's yellow card for collapsing a maul proved to be a turning point.

Dalton Papalii and winger Mark Telea crossed over for the Blues in the space of seven minutes as MacDonald's charges took full advantage of the one-man advantage.

Patrick Tuipulotu and Finlay Christie were next to dot down for the leaders, either side of Paenga-Amosa's try, to give their side a 17-point advantage.

The Reds made a fight of it late on when a crosskick sent Filipo Daugunu over, soon followed by a successful penalty from the Fiji-born winger, but the comeback fell just short.

The Blues are one point better off than Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders, who also made it four wins from four by defeating the Western Force 29-21 in Christchurch.

Scott Robertson's side were made to work hard for the victory after falling behind to Toni Pulu's well-taken try inside the opening four minutes.

Manasa Mataele finished soon after and Will Jordan slid over to complete a quickfire turnaround for the Crusaders, who went further ahead thanks to Whetu Douglas.

Ollie Callan's score from close range looked to have given the Force some hope, only for Sione Havili to cross the whitewash after the half-time hooter had sounded.

Jordan got his second of the game to give the Crusaders a 15-point lead and they stayed strong at the back until the final seconds.

Jordan Olowofela chased down Kyle Godwin's kick and went over, denying the Crusaders a bonus point in the process.

The Reds finally ended the wait for an Australian win in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season, but there were heavy defeats for the Waratahs and the Brumbies on Saturday.

With Damian McKenzie sent off in the 22nd minute for making contact with the head area, the impressive Reds appeared to be coasting to victory when they opened up a 40-8 lead midway through the second half.

Isaac Henry scored two of their six tries, the first of which came with Chase Tiatia in the sin bin. McKenzie's red card then swung the game even further in the Reds' favour, as they capitalised on having an extra man to run up the score.

However, they were then forced to repel a frenetic comeback bid, four tries from the Chiefs closing the gap down to six points in the closing minutes.

The hosts managed to hold on to win 40-34 and register a first Australian success in the tournament at the 15th attempt, in the process denting their opponents' hopes of making the grand final as they collected only a losing bonus point.

New Zealand sides had dominated the two earlier fixtures, though, including the rampant Crusaders cutting loose against the Waratahs.

There were eight different try-scorers for Scott Robinson's team in an emphatic 54-28 triumph, with Richie Mo'unga converting all bar one of the scores in the rout.

The Waratahs did get within 10 points after Izaia Perese touched down with Oli Jager in the sin bin, while they also capitalised on yellow cards for David Havili and Nathan Vella to score a late try through Alex Newsome, albeit it was no more than a consolation effort.

The Blues made it three straight Trans-Tasman wins despite a determined Brumbies side matching them in the first half at Eden Park, the away team even holding a 10-7 lead when hooker Connal McInerney went over.

They were unable to hold onto the lead for long and trailed 17-10 at the break, Finlay Christie touching down for a try converted by Otere Black, who also slotted over a penalty.

The hosts added 21 points without reply in the second half, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam and TJ Faiane all grabbing tries in a 38-10 triumph that sees them take over at the top of the table.

Richie Mo'unga plundered a hat-trick as the Crusaders demolished the Reds 63-28 in Brisbane, with the champions of New Zealand swamping their Australian counterparts in Super Rugby Trans Tasman.

In just the second round of the competition, the Canterbury giants showed off their prowess and Mo'unga served up a dazzling offering of his quality.

The All Blacks fly-half was in inspired form from the off, and by the half-hour mark he had already snagged a pair of clinical tries and set up Sevu Reece to dart in for another stunning score. With Cullen Grace also sprinting through for a try, and Mo'unga clinical from the tee, the rampaging Crusaders were 28-0 ahead after just 29 minutes.

Tate McDermott got the Reds on the board with their first try, but the Crusaders kept the points flowing, Reece dashing in at the right corner to increase their lead to 35-7 early in the second half, before Mo'unga got his third try after 55 minutes, dotting down near the posts to allow himself an easy conversion.

A penalty try, accompanied by a yellow card for Harry Hoopert, nudged the Crusaders 49-7 ahead, but curiously the 14-man Reds then enjoyed their best spell, as Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu scored classy tries to reduce their deficit to 49-21 going into the final 15 minutes.

Hopes of further damage limitation were crushed when Tamaiti Williams powered over and Codie Taylor added another try to emphasise a devastating team performance, before Brandon Paenga-Amosa barged in for a last-gasp consolation.

Luke Jacobson earlier crossed twice as the Chiefs ran in six tries in a 40-19 victory over the Brumbies in Hamilton.

The hosts overwhelmed their visitors, with Jacobson landing a first-half double, collecting from the back of the scrum and crossing from close range each time, and further tries coming from Tupou Vaa'i, Damian McKenzie, Alex Nankivell and Anton Lienert-Brown.

McKenzie booted five conversions, with the result never in doubt. The Brumbies responded through tries from Len Ikitau, Tom Cusack and, right at the death, Rob Valetini.

Wing Bryce Heem grabbed a hat-trick for a rampant Blues side whose second-half dominance secured a 48-21 win against the Waratahs.

Armed with a 22-14 half-time advantage, the Blues raised their game for the second 40 minutes and pulled away, inflicting a 10th straight defeat of the season on the visitors to Eden Park.

Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders survived a second-half fightback from the Brumbies to start their Trans-Tasman campaign with a dramatic 31-29 win.

The Crusaders appeared to be on course for a comfortable victory when they led 19-7 at the interval thanks to tries from Ethan Blackadder, Richie Mo'unga and David Havili.

Irae Simone's try and five points from the boot of Noah Lolesio trimmed the gap to two points after the break, only for Brendon O'Connor and Cullen Grace to cross to restore the Crusaders' measure of command.

But Tom Banks' try and Lolesio's conversion restored hope for Super Rugby AU runners-up the Brumbies, who then moved within two points of sending the game to extra time when Tom Wright's inside pass sent Rob Valetini over in the last minute.

However, this time Lolesio could not find the desired accuracy from the tee, his kick from the sideline sailing just wide of the left-hand post as the Crusaders clung on.

There was a markedly similar end to the Chiefs' 20-19 victory over the Western Force.

The Chiefs led 10-7 at half-time and tries from Nathan Harris and Jonah Lowe appeared to put them in control.

But Luke Jacobson's 66th red card, which came after he received a second yellow for slowing the ball down at the ruck, gave the Force new life.

They made their one-man advantage count three minutes later as Richard Kahui went over and had a chance to snatch victory at the last after Domingo Miotti crossed.

Miotti, though, could not convert his own try, sending the attempt agonisingly wide of the uprights.

That kick ensured it was a clean sweep for New Zealand sides over their Australian opponents, the Blues having run in eight tries in trouncing the Rebels 50-3 earlier in the day.

The Crusaders extended their Super Rugby dominance as Richie Mo'unga made three late clutch kicks to secure a 24-13 win over the Chiefs in Saturday's Aotearoa Grand Final.

For a fifth successive year, the Christchurch giants finished as champions in their competition, having been limited to all-New Zealand clashes in the last two seasons due to the pandemic.

The Chiefs, who finished bottom of the pile last season, defied expectations to reach this final at Orangetheory Stadium, but they could not take advantage of the Crusaders having two players sin-binned in the second half, briefly leaving them down to 13 men.

The underdogs made a disappointing start as they failed to prevent Mo'unga finding Sevu Reece to dot down the opening try after six minutes. Mo'unga added the extras, before Damian McKenzie pulled back three points with a penalty on 14 minutes.

Almost immediately, however, Will Jordan dashed through to gather David Havili's kick and nudge the Crusaders 12-3 ahead.

McKenzie was fed by a back-of-the-hand pass from Alex Nankivell as the Chiefs crossed in the 20th minute, continuing the barnstorming start to the match, and his conversion made it a two-point game.

That was the end of the try-scoring, however, as it became a match settled by the kickers, with Mo'unga slotting a penalty before half-time, which arrived moments after McKenzie missed the target.

McKenzie also squandered penalty chances twice early in the second half, as yellow cards in quick succession for Reece and Codie Taylor left the home side under-manned.

Belatedly, McKenzie found his range and hauled the Chiefs back to 15-13 as heavy rain fell, but Mo'unga showed nerves of steel to slot a drop goal in the 64th minute, and he added penalties in the 69th and 76th minutes to crush the challenge of the men from Waikato.

The Crusaders will host the 2021 Super Rugby Aotaeroa final against the Chiefs after returning to winning ways with a 29-6 victory over the Blues on Sunday in Christchurch.

The 2020 Super Rugby Aotaeroa champions scored four tries to the Blues' none, with two from Will Jordan including a fine solo run to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor also crossed for the Canterbury side who led 12-0 at the interval and never looked back.

Taylor remains the leading try scorer this season, getting his seventh of 2021 on the hour when the Crusaders maul forced their way over following a line-out.

The result also means that the Blues can no longer mathematically make for the top two thus will not feature in the decider despite having a game in hand against the Chiefs in Round 10, having collected no points on Sunday.

The Blues have lost four of their past five matches, fading from contention after a promising 2-0 start.

The Crusaders had gone down 26-25 to the Chiefs in Round Eight, putting at jeopardy their hopes of hosting the Final but Sunday's result ended any doubts.

Scott Robertson's side have been top of the table since Round Two, having started the 2021 season with five straight wins.

Damian McKenzie scored a last-gasp penalty as the Chiefs came from behind to edge out the Crusaders 26-25 and move second in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

McKenzie was on supreme form with the boot throughout Saturday's contest in Hamilton, and he proved decisive from 35 metres with three minutes remaining.

It was a different story for Richie Mo'unga, who missed what should have been an easy conversion from a Codie Taylor try early in the second half.

Mo'unga's mistake enabled the Chiefs to capitalise – Jonah Lowe crossing over in the corner to set the stage for McKenzie's winning penalty.

Lachlan Boshier also went over for the hosts, with McKenzie having kicked all nine of their points in the first half. 

Tries from Leicester Fainga'anuku and Will Jordan had propelled the top-of-the-table Crusaders to a 17-9 half-time lead, but indiscipline in the closing stages cost them. With four straight wins under their belts, the Chiefs are second on 16 points, ahead of the Blues and the Highlanders.

The Crusaders sealed a golden-point victory over the Hurricanes as David Havili's drop goal settled a memorable contest in extra time.

Havili's heroics secured a 30-27 triumph for the four-time defending champions against Super Rugby Aotearoa's rock-bottom side on Sunday.

It was a thrilling clash in Wellington, in which the Crusaders bounced back from last weekend's surprise loss to the Highlanders, who on Saturday were on the wrong end of Super Rugby's first golden-point result.

The win takes Scott Robertson's Crusaders eight points clear of the Blues at the summit.

George Bridge touched down twice early on as it appeared the visitors were setting themselves up for a routine win.

But the Hurricanes had other ideas, Ngani Laumape showing a turn of speed to sprint clear and dot down.

Then, after Richie Mo'unga's penalty, Julian Savea collected James Blackwell's pass to cross the line, with Jordie Barrett levelling matters with the conversion.

Laumape's yellow card did little to stifle the Hurricanes' momentum as Wes Goosen exploited a gap in the Crusaders defence to grab a try, the hosts taking a 27-20 lead.

That, however, was as good as it got for the Hurricanes, with Seva Reece's converted try taking the game to extra time, where Havili had the final say.

The Crusaders suffered a surprise first defeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season as the Highlanders cruised to a 33-12 victory.

The defending champions did the double over the Highlanders in last season's competition, but the form book was turned on its head on Friday.

It was only a second win in five matches for the Highlanders, who defeated the league leaders through 18 points from the boot of Mitch Hunt.

Billy Harmon, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop crossed for the Highlanders, who are a point behind the second-placed Blues having played a game more.

Meanwhile, in Super Rugby AU, the Waratahs suffered their sixth straight defeat but came agonisingly close to a draw with the league-leading Brumbies in their first game since Rob Penney's sacking.

Interim coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker saw plenty of fight from their winless side, who staged an admirable second-half fightback having trailed 24-10 at the break.

Will Harrison converted his own try to trim the gap to seven points with under a quarter of an hour to play.

The Brumbies saw Rory Scott sin-binned with six minutes left and, after Tom Cusack was sent off with the clock red, James Ramm went over following a scrum metres out from the line, offering Harrison the chance to clinch a share of the spoils.

But Harrison could not split the uprights with his conversion attempt as the Waratahs suffered a 24-22 loss and more misery in a dismal campaign.

Richie Mo'unga starred with 28 points as the Crusaders dominated the Blues 43-27 to remain unbeaten after four matches of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The New Zealand fly-half scored a try and added 23 points with the boot as the dominant visitors made it 13 consecutive wins over the Blues dating back to 2014 at a packed-out Eden Park.

Jack Goodhue, Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece all dotted down for the Crusaders, with the Blues scoring four tries themselves in a match packed with All Black internationals – Kurt Eklund, Blake Gibson and Hoskins Sotutu all registering for the hosts.

It was Mo'unga's accuracy off the tee that proved the difference, though.

The number 10 nailed all four conversions and added five penalties as the Crusaders went nine points clear.

"It's great to win here at Eden Park," Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said. "The Blues played some great rugby and tested us up front, it was a real battle there.

"It was almost like a Test match and we had to turn pressure into points."

Jordan Petaia rounded off a remarkable comeback from the Reds with a last-gasp try as they dealt the Brumbies their first defeat in Super Rugby AU this season in a 40-38 thriller. 

The defending champion Brumbies led 24-16 at half-time of a rematch of last year's final and stretched their advantage to 15 points after Folau Fainga'a went over for his second try. 

But Taniela Tupou and Harry Wilson crossed within six minutes of each other to trim the gap to a point and James O'Connor's penalty kept the Reds within striking distance even after Issak Fines' try had briefly settled Brumbies' nerves. 

Yet it was Petaia who had a stunning final say, displaying superb handling to gather Hunter Paisami's low kick and touch down. 

O'Connor slotted over a simple yet crucial conversion to clinch victory for the impressive Reds, who have three wins from three and are just two points behind leaders the Brumbies, who have played a game more. 

In the Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament, the Crusaders breezed to a 39-17 win over the Chiefs, making it three straight wins to start their title defence.

They led by a slender 11-10 margin at half-time, the first half lit up by an extraordinary finish in the left-hand corner from Leicester Fainga'anuku. 

But they ran in four tries after the break and are nine points clear of the Highlanders at the top, albeit having played a game more.

The Crusaders made it two wins from two games to start the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season with a 33-16 victory over the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Sunday.

The 2019 Super Rugby champions trailed 6-0 early but capitalised on Ardie Savea's sin binning to pile on 33 unanswered points to race away with an emphatic victory which underlined their title credentials.

The Crusaders finished with five tries to two, led by All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor who scored a double, while he set up Richie Mo'unga (four conversions) for his try.

Flanker Ethan Blackadder and lock Scott Barrett also touched down before half-time as the hosts opened up a 26-6 lead at the break.

After Taylor's second try in the 46th minute, the Hurricanes pulled one back thanks to Ricky Riccitelli with steady rain falling in the second half.

Will Jordan was disallowed a try for the Crusaders after he was unable to ground the ball cleanly.

Moments later the Hurricanes went down the other end to add respectability to the score with Peter Umaga-Jensen scampering over in the corner.

"It wasn't a complete performance but we can be happy with the result nonetheless," Crusaders captain Barrett told Sky TV.

The Crusaders made a winning start to their Super Rugby Aotearoa title defence, holding off the Highlanders to triumph 26-13 on Friday. 

All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor scored the opening try of the 2021 season as Crusaders crossed four times in total at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, though they were made to work hard for victory.

After Taylor touched down in the 13th minute, Bryn Hall followed suit soon after as the reigning champions quickly eased into a 14-0 lead, Richie Mo'unga landing both conversion attempts. 

However, Highlanders hit back to close the gap to four at the break. Shannon Frizell got their first points with a try, while Connor Garden-Bachop finished off a flowing move just before half-time. 

Mitch Hunt was on target with a penalty in the 43rd minute to reduce the deficit to just a solitary point, yet the home team were unable to edge ahead as Crusaders shut them out for the remainder of the contest. 

Sevu Reece crucially crashed over to make it 19-13, while replacement hooker Brodie McAlister sealed victory from a lineout drive with six minutes remaining. 

Mo'unga slotted over his third conversion as Crusaders were able to celebrate a successful start to their campaign, even though they finished with 14 men following a late yellow card for Scott Barrett. 

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